Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires


By Juan Cole

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In the midst of the dramatic seventh-century war between two empires, Muhammad was a spiritual seeker in search of community and sanctuary.

Many observers stereotype Islam and its scripture as inherently extreme or violent-a narrative that has overshadowed the truth of its roots. In this masterfully told account, preeminent Middle East expert Juan Cole takes us back to Islam’s-and the Prophet Muhammad’s-origin story.

Cole shows how Muhammad came of age in an era of unparalleled violence. The eastern Roman Empire and the Sasanian Empire of Iran fought savagely throughout the Near East and Asia Minor. Muhammad’s profound distress at the carnage of his times led him to envision an alternative movement, one firmly grounded in peace. The religion Muhammad founded, Islam, spread widely during his lifetime, relying on soft power instead of military might, and sought armistices even when militarily attacked. Cole sheds light on this forgotten history, reminding us that in the Qur’an, the legacy of that spiritual message endures.

A vibrant history that brings to life the fascinating and complex world of the Prophet, Muhammad is the story of how peace is the rule and not the exception for one of the world’s most practiced religions.



Chapter 1 “Petra: rock-cut buildings.” Lithograph by Louis Haghe after a painting by David Roberts, from David Roberts, The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Egypt, Nubia. Prepared by Louis Haghe. 1st ed. London: F. G. Moon, 1842–1849. 3 volumes.
Courtesy Library of Congress
Chapter 2 “Angel.” Ink and gold on paper. Iran, sixteenth century.
Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art
Chapter 3 Nabataean goddess betyl.
Bjorn Anderson, University of Iowa (photograph in private collection) (CC BY-SA 3.0), via Wikimedia Commons
Chapter 4 “Four brothers who live in Medina and who have been converted to Islam attempt to convert their pagan father.” Siyar-i Nabi, Ottoman, 1594–1595.
Courtesy Spencer Collection, New York Public Library
Chapter 5 “Samuel Anointing David.” Silver plate for Emperor Herakleios, Constantinople, 629–630.
Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art
Chapter 6 Illustration from Futuh al-Haramayn (Opening of the Holy Cities). Muhi al-Din Lari, Bukhara, sixteenth century.
Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art
Chapter 7 Leaf from Qur’an. This folio from Walters manuscript W.553 contains verses from the Surat al-a’raf, penned in an Early Abbasid script (Kufic) on parchment. Third century AH / AD ninth century.
Courtesy Walters Art Museum, W.553.15B
Conclusion “Mecca, 1787.” Pencil, ink, grey wash and watercolor. Louis Nicolas de Lespinasse, French, 1734–1808.
Courtesy Christie’s


THE NEW WORLD RELIGION OF ISLAM AROSE AGAINST THE BACKDROP of a seventh-century game of thrones between the Roman Empire and the Sasanian Empire of Iran that was fought with unparalleled savagery for nearly three decades. The imperial armies zigzagged bloodily across the Near East, the Fertile Crescent, Asia Minor, and the Balkans. Although the Qur’an makes it clear that this struggle between rival emperors, whom contemporaries called “the two eyes of the earth,” formed an essential context for the mission of the prophet Muhammad, historians have only recently attempted explorations of the latter’s life and thought with this framework in mind.1

This book puts forward a reinterpretation of early Islam as a movement strongly inflected with values of peacemaking that was reacting against the slaughter of the decades-long war and attendant religious strife. From the Crusades to colonialism, conflicts between Christians and Muslims led to a concentration among writers of European heritage on war and Islam, leaving the dimension of peace and cooperation neglected.2 Both peace and war are present in the Qur’an, just as they are in the Bible, and both will be analyzed below, but the focus here is on peace.

This book studies the Qur’an in its historical context rather than trying to explain what Muslims believe about their scripture.3 The Qur’an insists on liberty of conscience and forbearance toward enemies, and it prohibits unprovoked, aggressive warfare. It promises salvation to all righteous monotheists and not just to followers of the prophet Muhammad. That many outsiders and a not inconsiderable number of adherents have associated it with none of these values, and indeed have often interpreted it as upholding the converse, demonstrates how badly it has been understood. The misapprehensions came about for many reasons, including the imperial ideologies of the later Christian Byzantine and Muslim Abbasid empires, difficulties in interpreting the text, and a failure to read it against contemporary Roman and Iranian texts, a procedure that allows us to compare and contrast its values and concerns with those of others living in that era.4

The Iranian invasion of Roman territory from 603 forward threatened the independence of western Arabia, where Muhammad was based. The Sasanian conquest of Jerusalem in 614 struck contemporaries as apocalyptic and provoked a mystical response from the Prophet. A close reading of the Qur’an shows that a profound distress at the carnage of the age led Muhammad to spend the first half of his prophetic career (610–622) imagining an alternative sort of society, one firmly grounded in practices of peace. The Qur’an repeatedly instructs Believers to “repel evil with good,” pardon their persecutors, and wish peace on those who harassed them. These verses have as their greater context the outbreak of struggles among Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, and a remnant of pagans, who were partisans in the clash of empires raging around them. Muhammad in these years resembles much more the Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount than is usually admitted.

Scholars have increasingly also tied the second half of Muhammad’s career, 622–632, to the maneuverings of Rome and Iran, even suggesting that his move to Medina from his hometown of Mecca may have been connected to Roman diplomacy.5 I argue that Muslims in the time of the Prophet were explicitly allied with the Christian emperor Herakleios (r. 610–641) and indeed that Muhammad saw his defensive battles against truculent pagans in places such as Badr and Uhud in West Arabia as protecting Roman churches in Transjordan and Syria, to the north. It is likely these militant Arabian pagans had allied with the Iranian king of kings.

In short, Islam is, no less than Christianity, a Western religion that initially grew up in the Roman Empire. Moreover, Muhammad saw himself as an ally of the West. The Prophet in those years of pagan attacks did not abandon his option for peace but moved toward a doctrine of just war similar to that of Cicero and late-antique Christian thinkers. He repeatedly sued for peace with a bellicose Mecca, but when that failed he organized Medina for self-defense in the face of a determined pagan foe. The Qur’an insists that aggressive warfare is wrong and that if the enemy seeks an armistice, Muslims are bound to accept the entreaty. This disallowing of aggressive war and search for a resolution even in the midst of violent conflict justifies the title “prophet of peace,” even if Muhammad was occasionally forced into a defensive campaign. The Qur’an contains a doctrine of just war but not of holy war and does not use the word jihad with that latter connotation. It views war as an unfortunate necessity when innocents, and the freedom of conscience, are threatened. It strictly forbids vigilantism and equates premeditated killing of noncombatants with genocide, paraphrasing in this regard Jewish commentaries on the Bible in the Jerusalem Talmud.6

The Qur’an, read judiciously alongside later histories, suggests that during Muhammad’s lifetime, Islam spread peacefully in the major cities of Western Arabia. The soft power of the Qur’an’s spiritual message has typically been underestimated in most treatments of this period. The image of Muhammad and very early Islam that emerges from a careful reading of the Qur’an on peace-related themes contradicts not only widely held Western views but even much of the later Muslim historiographical tradition. This finding should come as no surprise. Life in medieval feudal societies did not encourage pacific theologies, and Muslims in later empires lost touch with the realities of the early seventh century. What if we read Jesus’s life and thought only through the lens of Pope Urban II, who launched the sanguinary Crusades in the Holy Land with the cry, “God wills it!”?7

Even today, many scholars of early Islam seem unduly deferential to later medieval interpreters. Others radically reject all information in those sources, treating Muslim histories differently from Byzantine or Carolingian chronicles, once again condemning non-Europeans to being a people without a history. The Qur’an tells us about that history if we will listen to it, and it tells us what is plausible in the later biographies of the Prophet.8



MUHAMMAD, THE SON OF ABDULLAH, HAVING BEEN CALLED TO THE audition of a lifetime, hurried through the filigree of Mecca’s palm-leaf huts and humble mud-brick homes to the opulent coral stone mansion of Khadija bint Khuwaylid. The small town’s wealthiest merchant, and its most eligible widow, was deciding whether to appoint the twenty-five-year-old to lead her next trading mission up to Damascus. If he received the commission, it would change his life, but many traders with more experience than he were likely in the running.1

Muhammad had been born in the West Arabian sanctuary city of Mecca, a zone of peace among feuding tribes. Muhammad’s clan, the Hashim, served as caretakers and ministers of the Kaaba, a cube-shaped shrine to God the Most High, where they maintained concord throughout the year. The tribe of which it formed a part, the Quraysh, depended for their livelihood on the shrine to God and the penumbra of peace it cast over the Red Sea coastal region of the Tihama, in which Mecca was nestled. They traveled for commerce and held their own trade fairs that attracted merchants from all over the region. This rough neighborhood was bounded by the Roman Empire to the north and the Sasanian Empire (224–651 CE) of Iran to the south and east.2

Muhammad, an orphan, likely viewed peace and conflict through the lens of his disadvantaged start in life. Some traditions say that when Muhammad’s mother was pregnant with him, his father, Abdullah, died of fever at Yathrib (later known as Medina) on returning from a trade journey to Gaza. That “Year of the Elephant,” probably around 567, Mecca repulsed an invasion from Yemen.3 When Muhammad was six, his widowed mother, Amina, took him to visit some of his relatives who lived in Yathrib. She died on the way back, leaving the little boy Muhammad bereft of both parents. Muhammad’s grandfather Shayba “`Abd al-Muttalib” ibn Hashim took the boy into his own household. Reputedly tall, imposing in appearance, quick-witted, and a shrewd politician, `Abd al-Muttalib had an arresting gray streak through his jet-black head of hair. The paramount chief of the Hashim clan, he served as custodian of the sacred well of Zamzam, which he had rediscovered. He provided its copious water to pilgrims who came to Mecca to worship at the city’s shrine to God the Most High. Without providing a major water source, `Abd al-Muttalib could not have hoped to attract a significant pilgrimage trade. Pilgrims brought in money and offerings of much-needed food from more fertile and prosperous areas—welcome gifts, given that hardscrabble Mecca had limited agricultural lands. Arabia has been likened to a burlap cloak with golden hems—coarse within, as at Mecca, but flourishing along the coasts.

The Banu Hashim lacked the wealth and power of some other clans in the city, though as caretakers of the holy shrine they enjoyed high social status. Muhammad the orphan, as the least prestigious member of his clan, suffered some humiliations. He had to work as a shepherd for his grandfather. His uncles and cousins bullied him because he had no father to protect him, and he lacked a long-lived hero of the previous generation whose exploits he could celebrate in poetry. `Abd al-Muttalib used to spread a runner outside the Kaaba in Mecca where he would hold meetings. His many sons would gather and sit on it, waiting for him. Little Muhammad once came and plopped down, also eager for his grandfather to arrive. He was dismayed to find that his jealous uncles tried to wave him off, yelling, “Get off your father’s carpet!” On one occasion `Abd al-Muttalib arrived to witness this scene and told them to cease.4 Later on, the Qur’an would refer (The City 90:14–16) to “the steep path” of high ethics as requiring “feeding, during a famine, an orphan related to you, or a grubby vagrant.” After two years, `Abd al-Muttalib also died, and Muhammad went to the household of his paternal uncle Abu Talib, who became the paramount chief of the Hashim clan.

Now, at age twenty-five, Muhammad had an opportunity to escape his relative poverty. When the modest camel trains assembled outside Mecca to go to Syria, Khadija’s rivaled all the others combined—that is, she may have possessed half of the town’s long-distance merchant capital.5 Muhammad’s uncle Abu Talib had recommended him when she asked for someone honest and reliable. Khadija, somewhat Muhammad’s elder, would have met him in her receiving room with her circle of advisers. Making her decision, she underlined the responsibility she was vouchsafing to him: “I’ve entrusted you with twice as many goods as any of your predecessors among your people.”

She sent along her manservant Maysara, likely as much to keep an eye on her capital as to serve Muhammad. The young man had just gained a magnificent opportunity, but he had incurred daunting risks as well. Let us try to imagine what his hazardous journey through the world of the late sixth century was like.

The caravan may have set out from the small Arabian holy city in August 592. Citizens gathered beneath the lambent late-afternoon sun to see the traders off, having invested in the mission, ringing bells and beating tambourines. Muhammad and the other traders wore the white robes of merchant-priests of peace. They thereby signaled to any hostile tribesmen that they had no warlike intentions and traveled between sanctuaries under the protection of the Creator God. Members of the Hashim clan had a special advantage in this regard since they served as caretakers of the Kaaba and even coarse rural tribesmen respected their vocation. Bedouin children ran up to them, giggling and hawking fruit and water. Muhammad and his men would have passed through occasional adobe villages, roofs thatched with palm leaves, as they traversed the auburn steppe, interrupted by teal abal bushes and strewn with colorful loose chert.6

Such travelers rode through the night beneath a spangled sky. At dawn the sun slowly flared behind low basalt hills, tinting the twisted crags with rose and violet, then embossing them in brass. They halted when the heat of the day grew too oppressive, catching some sleep and waiting for nightfall. After several days of riding, the party would have reached the date-palm oasis of Yathrib. There, happy to see some limpid pools and fruit-laden date and jujube trees after days of eating dust, they would have stocked up on water, dates, and other refreshments for the precarious arid trek north. A vassal of Sasanian Iran from the local pagan Khazraj tribe then ruled this city, but the Meccans had preserved their own neutrality between Iran and the Roman Empire.7

Muhammad would have visited with his relatives in Medina. His great-grandmother Salma was a Khazraji woman of the Najjar clan. The Banu Najjar, despite being such distant cousins, would have valued their connection to Muhammad’s family, custodians of the sacred Kaaba. Medinans went on pilgrimage to the shrine of God in Mecca, though they also visited the temple they had erected to the goddess of fate, Manat.8

Then Muhammad and his convoy would have set off again north in the late afternoon. When voyagers passed over patches of white sand, the granules glinted in the relentless sun like miniature diamonds. Thirst and discomfort beset the travelers, as distant mirages of sweet water spitefully vanished on their closer approach. Occasionally, they might have startled ranging herds of spear-horned oryx, which scattered with dazzling speed. Keening desert gales assailed them like the breath of a dragon, and when a sandstorm came up, it pricked their skin as though with innumerable tiny needles. The Meccans would have been inordinately grateful for the occasional majestic cumulus cloud that offered them some respite from the irate summer sun.

Along the way, the merchants would have bought simple supplies from rural bedouins. We can gain an idea of this journey from the Piacenza Pilgrim, a Roman who traveled in the Near East in the 570s during Muhammad’s childhood. He wrote of the Arabs, or “Saracens”:

Families of the Saracens and their wives came from the desert, and, sitting by the wayside with lamentations, laying down their bundles, begged for bread from those who passed by; and their husbands came, bringing skins of cold water from the interior of the desert, and gave it to us, receiving bread for it. They also brought ropes of roots, whose smell was delicious beyond all odours. They had no permission to do this, because a prohibition [on commerce] was laid upon them, and they were celebrating a festival.9

The Pilgrim discovered that one of the holy months the Arabs considered sacrosanct, during which they prohibited fighting, was drawing to a close, and he heard that the chances of being attacked by the bedouins would increase.

Arabian society consisted of tribes, or large families. Each brother and each cousin could move out of the patriarchal residence and found a new clan, putting together a coalition in the extended family to vie for power or to raid the flocks of others. Some of these relationships were fictive. Occasionally, other clans joined a successful tribe, the way modern people join a political party, and by way of justification announced that they had discovered a common long-lost ancestor. Tribes engaged in a form of kinship politics and were not necessarily mobile. Most of those in the Hejaz, the northern stretch of the Tihama coastal region along the Red Sea, dwelled in towns and villages in the late sixth century, but a minority of pastoralists wandered with flocks to find patches of glaucous pasture. The two coexisted in an uneasy symbiosis: settled people provided agricultural goods and essential grain, and the nomads traded meat and dairy products for them.10

The trade route from Mecca to Roman Arabia appears to have revived in the last third of the sixth century. In part, this development reflected the unusual prosperity of Transjordan in this era. In part, it also derived from the Iranian invasion of Yemen in the early 570s, when they dethroned the previous Ethiopian Christian dynasty in alliance with local pagans and Jews. The Sasanians thus controlled the mouth of the Red Sea, the Bab al-Mandab, which opened Roman maritime commerce with Africa and Asia to interference and piracy, thus increasing the profitability of overland commerce. The Roman and Sasanian Empires had for centuries engaged in a globe-straddling contest for dominance, and throughout Muhammad’s lifetime this imperial struggle would intensify in its savagery, powerfully shaping his world and his views on the desirability of peace.11

Roman historian Menander the Guardsman observed of the Arabs of this era, “There are a myriad Saracen tribes, for the most part anarchic desert-dwellers, some of whom are loyal to the Roman state, others to the Persian.” Although a few Arab clans in the region had embraced Christianity, most Arabs of the Hejaz had remained pagans, stubbornly resisting the official religion of Constantine and his successors. This conservatism may have been in part a bid for neutrality between the Christian Roman Empire and the Zoroastrian Iranian empire, as with Mecca. Being noncommittal allowed them to move freely between the two. For others, their religious traditionalism reassured Iran about Arab allies since their conversion to Christianity might signal that they tilted politically toward Constantinople.12

During the blistering day, when the sand scorched their feet, travelers huddled miserably in sheepskin tents, awaiting the gloaming to start their journey afresh. They typically accomplished some of the trip at night. The nocturnal journey challenged the camel drivers and their steeds, bouncing their passengers unevenly as their mounts stumbled blindly across jagged lava fields and rock-strewn dry riverbeds.13

Such excursions depended on detailed Quraysh knowledge of the rugged countryside, of where the wells and oases lay and where robber bands might lie in wait. Occasionally, local tribes would have confronted Muhammad and the Quraysh, demanding that they pay out some of their goods for passage through that land. The Meccans are said to have bought off such hostile bedouins by offering carriage to them for their leather and other goods and a share of the profits on their return. Muhammad, a scion of the Banu Hashim, which specialized in settling feuds and keeping the peace around the Kaaba sanctuary, would have found himself forced to negotiate such challenges despite his youth and inexperience. If he failed, he could face raids and lose the whole value of his trading mission, ending his career as a long-distance merchant. If he did not bring back summer wheat from Syria, some of his friends might miss some meals.

MUHAMMAD AND HIS camel train would have proceeded through the desert flatland between the jet carapace of hilly country to the east and the turquoise sea to the west. To fill the boredom, traders recited heroic poetry of their ancestors’ battle days, glorying in raids, carnage, and swordplay, matching the rhythm of the verse to the gait of their steeds: “When I arise with my blade in vengeance / It slices at once—it’s no dull orchard hatchet,” an ancient bard boasted, characterizing his saber as being as “vicious as a darting snake’s head.” Muhammad, being of Banu Hashim and a peace builder, likely did not approve of the glorification of rough plunderers who preyed on innocents. Wealthy pagan temples in late antiquity before the hegemony of Christianity had often been a “resort” for the poor.14 The Kaaba probably played a similar charitable role. At least later in life, Muhammad recited verses condemning “the one who drives away the orphan, and does not advocate for feeding the poor.”15 Freebooting warriors and the lay priests of the Kaaba devoted themselves to very different values, but Arabic poetry decidedly feted the raiders.

Muhammad’s forebears had negotiated a set of alliances and informal treaties with most tribes of the Hejaz and Transjordan, which allowed a modest cavalcade to wend its way through their territory and involved payoffs, sharing of trading profits, marriage alliances, and respect for the Kaaba sanctuary of God and for the Quraysh as its guardians. The Qur’an (106:1–4) later referred to this network of treaty obligations, seeing it as a divine bestowal: “Because of his benevolence toward the Quraysh they were enabled to undertake the winter and summer caravans. So let them worship the lord of this shrine, who provided them with food to stop their hunger and gave them security against fear.”16

Muhammad’s great-grandfather Hashim ibn `Abd Manaf was said to have personally visited Roman authorities in Syria, likely in the early 490s, and negotiated tariff abatements and safe passage for the Meccan merchants who journeyed through the empire. He initiated the practice of bringing “bags of wheat” from Damascus. Meccans timed these annual treks north just after the summer grain harvest since they, wedged among obsidian lava beds and misshapen spatter cones, lacked that key dietary nutrient. Hejazis like Muhammad, who could not stand the cold of the Levant in December, instead went south to Yemen for winter wheat. Mecca, as a neutral city-state, could bring Indian Ocean goods up from the port of Aden and then take them to the Roman Near East. Because by treaty Iran limited the cities that could trade with Rome and charged its enemies in Constantinople a 25 percent tariff on desirable Asian luxury goods, Hejazis could offer these commodities at a discount by acting as a third party.17

The Quraysh brought back staples like grain as well as raisins, wine, and Damascene swords. The substantial expenses of overland caravan trade required carrying lightweight luxury items to make the voyage worthwhile. The Hejazis were known for their precious metals and called the mines near Medina the “Cradle of Gold.” The Roman Empire had to pay large sums of gold annually to Iran to keep the peace after losing several key campaigns, an obligation that may have increased the profitability of the nuggets provided by the caravan trade. They probably also traded in leather, high-quality dates, ivory from Ethiopia, and Asian goods such as silk via Yemen. Occasionally, they may have brought wealthy Jews from Yemen up to Palestine, transporting their deceased loved ones in an ossuary for burial in the Holy Land.18

Muhammad’s Meccan caravan would have arrived at Madain Salih, an old Nabatean oasis city also called Hijr. Arab tribes had invaded the Transjordan in the 300s BC, founding a kingdom there, Nabatea, where they introduced the worship of North Arabian gods. This Arab kingdom fell to Rome in 106 CE. The inhabitants continued to revere their own deities for centuries thereafter, though often in dialogue with Greek religion. The Qur’an called the Nabateans, the greatest of the Arab states of the ancient world, “`Ad,” after a prominent ancient tribe of southern Transjordan.19

Bored Roman troops stationed at a base in Madain Salih before trade routes shifted had left Latin graffiti. By 592 sand drifted listlessly through its abandoned tall red sandstone buildings bearing enigmatic runes. The Nabateans had constructed a major graveyard there for aristocrats, which they believed the gods guarded. Tomb raiders are warned in an inscription that they will have to pay a fine to “Dushara and Hubal, and to Manotu.” Dushara was the title of the chief of the gods among the Nabateans, who appears to have been especially important in this city. Hubal is a seldom-mentioned and apparently minor deity. Manotu is the Aramaic form of Manat, the Arab goddess of fate also beloved in Medina. Some Roman troops liked her so much that they took her back to Europe. At nearby Tayma one inscription called her the “goddess of goddesses.” Another makes it clear that locals saw the graveyard at Madain Salih as a sanctuary, a place of peace: “The tomb and this inscription (wktbh) are inviolable according to the nature of inviolability among the Nabataeans… forever and ever.”20 The idea that a piece of writing could itself be a sanctuary of peace may have come down to the Arabs of Muhammad’s own time and affected the way they perceived scriptures, whether the Bible or the Qur’an.

Some Arabs at Madain Saleh in the sixth century likely still worshipped Manat, who capriciously set people’s fate. The northern Hejaz came to be dominated in the Roman period by the Thamud tribal federation, whom the Qur’an (The Heights 7:74) castigated for their stubborn paganism and their rejection of a native Arab prophet, Salih, whom God sent to them. It laments of the traditionalists in Madain Saleh, “The people of Hijr rejected the messengers.”21


  • "Cutting-edge....Muhammad is not just eruditely informative, but also ambitiously revisionist....a more uplifting image of the Prophet Muhammad, waiting to be discovered not just by non-Muslims, but also many Muslims themselves."—New York Times Book Review
  • "A captivating biography of Muhammad that captures the centrality of peace in his prophetic revelation and in the faith community he established. A brilliant and original book destined to challenge many Western preconceptions about Islam."—Eugene Rogan, author of TheArabs: A History
  • "Juan Cole's Muhammad comes at precisely the right time. During a moment where Islam has been positioned as an enhanced threat to America and the West, Cole provides a historical account that trenchantly takes down the mis-narrative that the Prophet Muhammad was, above all, war-mongering and wed to violence. This is more than historical work, but writing that equips readers with the knowledge to navigate our turbulent present."—Khaled A. Beydoun, professorof law and author American Islamophobia: Understanding the Roots and Rise ofFear
  • "Juan Cole's Muhammad draws deeply on the text of the Qur'an and on a vast selection of the best modern scholarship to make a convincing case for Muhammad as apostle of tolerance and peace. Cole shows how this original message of peace, consistently articulated in the Qur'an, was distorted by later Islamic tradition and denied by more than a thousand years of European polemic against Islam. Filled with astute observations at every turn."—Fred M. Donner, professorof near eastern history, University of Chicago
  • "A groundbreaking book, written in an accessible and engaging style, that should be read by scholars, students, policymakers, religious leaders, and media commentators alike. Cole's thoroughly original and firmly-rooted scholarship challenges long established Western narratives of Islam as a religion of violence, war and intolerance. A brilliant reconstruction of early Islamic history."—John L. Esposito,university professor and professor of religion & international affairs,Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University
  • "An essential read in a turbulent, dangerous time."—TheHistorical Novels Review
  • "A riveting new history."—AlterNet

On Sale
Oct 9, 2018
Page Count
336 pages
Bold Type Books

Juan Cole

About the Author

Juan Cole is a professor of history at the University of Michigan. A revered public intellectual, he is the author and creator of the award-winning blog Informed Comment, which averages 4.5 million page views a year. He is the author of Napoleon’s Egypt, Engaging the Muslim World, and The New Arabs and has appeared on numerous television programs including the PBS Newshour, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, ABC’s Nightline, and The Colbert Report. He lives in Ann Arbor, MI.

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